July Outturn 2022 Chairman’s Column
I was recently speaking at an industry event when a question came from the floor, “Which aspect or area of whisky do you think has seen the most change in the last two decades?” It’s a question worth pondering…
Several “obvious” areas come to mind. For example, one area of change is the huge number of new distilleries that have been established in the last 10 years. You’ll not have heard of most of these yet, as their stock is still maturing or they’ve not established a single malt brand. (At least, not in this country). In saying this, I have the Scotch whisky industry in mind but, closer to home, the same can be said for the local Australian industry – new distilleries are popping up everywhere. I was informed this week that Tasmania alone now boasts some 85 distilleries making whisky!
Another area of change has been the cost of some whiskies. As I wrote about in a recent Outturn, the retail price being set for old or rare releases has gone up at an exponential rate that far exceeds any linear projection of inflation or CPI.
However, the real area of change — and certainly from the consumer’s point of view – is the simple array of choice. And I don’t necessarily mean choice of different expressions from the established brands. I mean choice of whisk(e)y.
For this current generation of whisky drinkers, Scotch will arguably be the yardstick against which all else is referenced or compared to. Perhaps it might also be thought of as being “the constant”.
However, for drinkers wanting to try new whiskies or venture beyond their usual go-to dram, there’s a lot more scope these days to go “off track”. In the malt whisk(e)y world, it’s not that long ago that those wanting to drink something other than Scotch had about one brand of Irish and maybe one brand of Japanese to choose from at their local chain store. Today, however, the amount of choice is almost overwhelming: Consider the excellent malt whisky offerings from India and Taiwan. There’s an ever-increasing range of Irish whiskey available. There are now numerous malt whisky offerings coming out of North America. From Europe, we have offerings from Wales, England, France, Sweden, and Switzerland. And all of that is before we get to the myriad of choice here on our own doorstep.
We are, of course, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and Scotch is certainly our bread and butter. That said, it’s been fantastic to see the Society bottle whiskies and other spirits from those other categories. For those who enjoy seeing new numbers added to the Society’s code system and also new letters (e.g. B, R, A and C, etc), I’m pleased to share there’s a lot more bound for our shores.